With Memories of Overdevelopment the young Cuba film-maker Miguel Coyula has made a remarkable sequel to one of the classic films of the Cuban Revolution, Memories of Underdevelopment by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea. Intriguingly, the new film, like the old, is based on a novel by the Cuban author Edmundo Desnoes—who settled in New York after quitting Cuba in 1979—which itself is a sequel to the first novel. Coyula himself is one of the new wave of independent Cuban film-makers, born in Havana in 1977, graduate of Cuba’s international film school in San Antonio de los Baños, who went to show his highly experimental digital shorts in New York in 1999, where he was offered an acting scholarship and stayed. This would seem to place him closer to Desnoes than Alea, who remained in Cuba where he died in 1996, but it’s still surprising: an avant garde film by a 33-year-old in collaboration with an eminance grise of 80.
Showing at Riverside Studios, Monday 22 Nov 2010
Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic reports a meeting with Fidel Castro in which Fidel made some extraordinary statements about the failure of Cuba’s economic model and his own past mistakes, including his position at the time of the missile crisis in 1962. He has not renounced his revolutionary principles. Goldberg writes: ‘When I asked him, over lunch, to answer what I’ve come to think of as the Christopher Hitchens question – has your illness caused you to change your mind about the existence of God? – he answered, “Sorry, I’m still a dialectical materialist.” ‘ However, he admits that Cuba’s economic model doesn’t work. He also had some very pointed things to say about Iran’s Ahmadinejad who he says should stop slandering the Jews, while his advice to Israel is to give up its nuclear arsenal. The links can be found on my other blog, Michael’s Digest.
Posted in Cuba, Iran
Screening at the Barbican on September 25, 2010
For his new film on the Cuban national hero Martí, Fernando Pérez has returned to classical narrative after a run of offbeat movies, both fiction and documentary. In Martí, el ojo del canario (Martí: The Eye of the Canary), he reinvents the childhood and adolescence of Cuba’s nineteenth century national hero José Martí, covering the years he lived in Cuba before being sent into exile for political sedition at the age of seventeen. Not a subject to be approached without care, since Martí is a figure, as Guiteras points out on La Joven Cuba, who is adored and put to use by contrary political tendencies to legitimise their own position. Continue reading
Cuba 2, Venezuela 1
Three DVDs have turned up, two about Cuba and one about Venezuela, which portray different perspectives on revolutionary politics in Latin America at different stages. Mike Wayne & Deirdre O’Neill’s Listen to Venezuela is a lengthy report on the Venezuelan process by a pair of leftist intellectuals on an academic research scholarship, dense with information about what is really going on there. With our memory on the future (Con la memoria en el futuro) presents the veteran Cuban documentarist Octavio Cortázar looking back shortly before his death in 2008, revisiting the territory of his 1974 documentary, With Cuban Women (Con la mujeres cubanas), asking if women’s lot has genuinely improved and machismo is on the decline. Filmically the most satisfying, Andrew Lang’s Sons of Cuba is the work of a young British film-maker, an agile portrait of a boxing academy for youngsters in Havana. Continue reading
From Buenos Aires to Paris, for a conference on culture in Cuba. Unfortunately the organisers invited Cuban speakers from both Havana and outside, without realising that those from Havana would not attend, not out of individual choice but because it’s policy — the Cuban government operates a ban on allowing its artists and intellectuals to appear in public alongside those who have opted to leave the country and call themselves exiles. Since the final session is given over to a couple of the latter, Abilio Estévez and Zoé Valdés (although Estévez, who now has Spanish citizenship, goes back on visits), the conference ends on a downer. It’s certainly instructive to hear what they have to say, but it’s impossible to enter into dialogue with them, because they tend to have a rather fixed perspective. Continue reading
Posted in Cuba
Back from the Cuba Research Forum event in Nottingham. Came away thinking once again, as many times before, that Cuba is a mass of paradoxes. A small country which punches far above its weight in international politics, in dire economic straights but ruled by a strong regime which still upholds the communist ideology. This regime, which now officially admits that people don’t earn enough to live on, has prioritised social welfare, and the country has seen no essential fall in its exemplary rates of life expectancy nor any rise in infant mortality compared to before the collapse of 1991. This is not say the system is not under strain, but these rates are among the best in the world. (Cuba’s infant mortality rate is actually lower than that of the USA; meanwhile, opponents of Obama’s health reforms protest, among other things, that covering 46m uninsured Americans will ‘cost too much’—in the richest country in the world.) Continue reading
Posted in Cuba
Here comes another film on Che Guevara. This time it’s a documentary with the somewhat naff title of Chevolution, directed by Trisha Ziff and Luis Lopez, opening at the ICA in London on 18th September. In fact there’s been a constant stream of films, both dramas and documentaries, about el Che for several years now, and the only other twentieth century historical figure who has possibly had more films devoted to him over the same period is Hitler. Which makes you think. Continue reading